All games in Italy behind closed doors until April 3rd

The two Coppa Italia semi-finals scheduled for Wednesday and Thursday are postponed

Atalanta ans are scanned by sanitary staff prior the Serie A match against Lecce. Photo: Maurizio Lagana/Getty Images

Atalanta ans are scanned by sanitary staff prior the Serie A match against Lecce. Photo: Maurizio Lagana/Getty Images

 

The Italian government has confirmed that all sporting events must be staged behind closed doors until April 3rd, hitting England’s Six Nations match with Italy in Rome and all Serie A games, after the country’s death toll from the coronavirus passed 100 people.

There was no immediate confirmation from rugby authorities about whether England’s match on March 14th will go ahead but the announcement means around 20,000 England supporters will now not be making the trip.

Schools and universities throughout Italy have also been closed until March 15th after a further 28 people died from the outbreak on Wednesday, with the government decree concerning sports events announced later on. It means that all sports events are suspended for 30 days and can only be staged behind closed doors if in “closed structures”.

That includes Serie A, with Internazionale president Steven Zhang admitting that he was in favour of the measures in a bid to stop the virus spreading. “Closing doors but continuing matches is the right thing to do,” Zhang told BBC Sport.

It is understood that Six Nations organisers are hoping the match in Rome can still go ahead behind closed doors, although that was in the balance on Wednesday night. The broadcaster ITV is reported to have decided against sending a commentary team to Rome, even if it were to go ahead, with the broadcast to be based in London instead.

A number of cycling races in Italy are also under threat after racing teams began to withdraw their riders. Italian football has already been strongly affected by the impact of coronavirus, with a growing number of postponed matches that include this week’s Coppa Italia semi-finals. Now the game’s governing body looks set to turn to closed doors fixtures in the hope of clearing the backlog.

So far 10 Serie A matches have been postponed, as well as the two Coppa Italia matches between Juventus and Milan and Napoli versus Internazionale. In cycling, the Strade Bianche, Milan-San Remo and Tirreno-Adriatico all appear in difficulty after teams began to request to drop out from competition.

Australian team Mitchelton Scott announced it would “withdraw its teams from the next period of racing” including all three Italian competitions. “We, as Team Doctors and the wider team, have a duty of care to protect health and wellbeing of all our riders and staff,” the team said in a statement, citing as the reason behind their decision an inability to influence measures taken to preserve athlete health. “We will not have any input into, or control over, the measures that race organisers may or may not put in place to manage the Covid-19 risks,” they said.

American men’s team EF Pro Cycling have also written to the Union Cycliste International (UCI) asking to withdraw from all three races, according to reports in the Wall Street Journal. Parkhotel Valkenburg, the Dutch women’s team, will not be taking part in the Strade Bianche. Earlier this week RSC Sport, the organisers of all three Italian races, had insisted they would be going ahead.

Meanwhile, in the United Arab Emirates, several cycling teams remain under forced quarantine in an Abu Dhabi hotel. Members of the French teams Cofidis and Groupama-FDJ as well as Russian collective Gazprom - including 18 riders - have been confined to the fourth floor of the Crowne Plaza since Thursday. The UAE health ministry said on Tuesday that six new cases relating to the cycling event had been discovered. They were identified as Russian, Italian, German and Colombian nationals but it was not clear if they had been confined to either of the hotels.

“All of our riders and staff in the UAE have been tested negative for Covid-19. Still several positive results - not involving our team - have been reported inside our hotel,” FDJ said in a statement.

Away from the immediate effects, however, officials have been striking more confident notes about the prospects for this summer’s Olympics. The president of the International Olympic Committee, Thomas Bach, spoke bluntly on the subject following the second day of the IOC’s annual meeting in Lausanne. “I can tell you that today... neither the word ’cancellation’, nor the word ’postponement’ was even mentioned”, Bach said. “Of course we are a responsible organisation and this is why we have a joint-task force which is having regular meetings, but we are not speculating on any kind of future developments.”

Bach’s remarks were echoed by the head of the British Olympic Association Andy Anson. “It is not affecting our plans in any way, in that we are absolutely focused on getting the team to Tokyo for the Olympics in July and everyone is obsessed with that, that is the number one focus,” Anson told BBC Sport.

“At the same time we are getting information from all the relevant bodies, so we have got the most up-to-date information on coronavirus, and it is changing every day as you can see with the news stories.”

- Guardian

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